(Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.)
Kentucky is one step closer to mandated Holocaust education in the public schools.
By a 94-1 vote on Wednesday, the state House of Representatives passed H.B. 128 – the Ann Klein & Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, which requires every public middle school and high school to provide instruction on the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.
The bill had been languishing for days in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, leading some observers to believe it had been sent there to die. But the bill was finally sent to the House floor Friday for a vote.
Co-sponsored by Reps. John Carney, R-Campbellsville; Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville; and Mark Hart, R-Falmouth, the bill now goes the Senate for approval. The session ends on April 13.
“We are thrilled that this bill passed the Kentucky House, and it passed so overwhelmingly,” said Matt Goldberg, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We are optimistic that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and that our commonwealth will soon be a national leader in Holocaust and genocide education.”
The bill is named for Fred Gross and the late Anne Klein, two Holocaust survivors from Louisville who have spent much of their lives speaking out about their experiences, especially to young people. Gross was on the House floor at the time of the vote.
On Tuesday night, Linda Klein, the daughter of Ann Klein, took to Facebook, urging her friends to contact their lawmakers and push for passage.
“Given the situation in our country and hatred around the world, people need to remember it (the Holocaust) even more,” Klein told Community. “There are so very few survivors left to tell the story, so I feel much more of a responsibility that it’s not forgotten, to pass on my mother’s story and stories of others who went through this.”
From the floor of the House, Rep. Marzian recognized the students of St. Francis Assisi School in Louisville and their social studies teacher, Fred Whitaker, for lobbying for the bill. Whitaker has taught the Holocaust for years.
Rep. Carney, the prime sponsor of the bill, said mandated Holocaust education is necessary to combat denial that it ever happened.
“Most school districts are already teaching the Holocaust,” he was quoted by the Kentucky Legislature website as saying. “Unfortunately, there are some folks in society who are beginning to question it.”
The lone no vote came from Rep. Darryl T. Owens, D-Louisville, who wanted slavery included in the bill. Owens could not be reached for comment Thursday due to medical issues.
If the legislature passes H.B. 128, and Gov. Matt Bevin signs it, Kentucky will join a small, but growing, list of states that have already passed and enacted some degree of mandated Holocaust and/or genocide education: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.